[To Mr. M.] London, 11 January 1839.
My dear Friend,
I have been under many changes since I took leave of you in the street; but though I have passed through fire and water, the Lord has made me taste of the happiness found in the wealthy place. These extremities bring us to a strict scrutiny, and if there be any spiritual integrity in us it will be found at such a time, and David's cry will then be forced from our hearts, "Search me, O God, and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." And again, "Rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore." "Forsake me not . . . make haste to help me." This is the way the Lord opens our ears to discipline, and when our souls are bowed down to the dust and we thirst for the living God, then in some way or other spiritual life is more clearly perceived, and we find power to pour out our souls before the Lord; upon which he presently appears, and the voice of joy is heard. How humbling is all this work, and how little it makes us to feel ourselves! How wise we see his dispensations! How light the vanities of the world appear, compared with this! How short time seems in the sweet prospect of that eternal weight of glory which is set before us, and of which we are at such a time in our measure partakers! Religion without these changes has not the fear of God for its foundation, nor the word of God for its rule, nor the Spirit of God to testify of its reality.
I speak and write as I do because I am continually falling into trouble, as one wave succeeds another, but have always found the truth of God's word, "Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you" [Josh. xxiii. 14]. No trouble has been too great for him. "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." Nothing shall be impossible with God, and nothing has been so in my case. He has surprised and won my heart and affections so that I am by his grace together with him contending against that body of sin within, that seeks to mar and destroy the vineyard which God's right hand hath planted. Afflictions, crosses, perplexities, and various inextricable providences, daily occur, to keep me of necessity dependent upon him; and in the exercise of this he discovers himself in all the various characters that I can desire, and to the utter confusion of all my spiritual enemies. Oh! the discovery of these foul enemies casts me down almost to the gates of despair; but this unchangeable everlasting love of God is unsearchable, and the subject too great ever to get to the end of it.
I commend you with many prayers to the Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be a fellow partaker both of the sufferings and of the joy
Yours in the Lord, J. B.